The Santa Ynez Vallley is cheering about the recent news that the Historic Mattei's Tavern has been purchased, with the new owners Brian and Shamra Strange bringing in as Chef/Owner, Maili Halme- a local girl who caters for the best weddings & events here and far.....a perfect match! I have no idea if the projected & permitted hotel-spa is going forward, last I read it was associated with the Mesa Group in Santa Barbara....
Here is Maili's announcement:
When I was 11-years-old, I sat on the fence at Mattei’s Tavern waiting to see Olympic speed skating gold medalist, Eric Heiden, come by in a bike race. While I was waiting under the 100-year-old redwood tree, I kept glancing over at the long porch of windows in the Wicker Room of Mattei’s Tavern. I remember thinking that when I grew up I would like to own it. I didn’t even realize at the time that it was such a lofty dream.
Mattei’s became to me what it was to everyone else in the valley: the place we all gathered to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. It was a beloved restaurant filled with memories of personal celebrations.
When I was 19, I cooked for the Barrack family as their chef Monday-Friday. On the weekends I was a waitress at Mattei’s. It was a Charthouse back then and I loved their tomato soup so much that I snuck into the kitchen to copy the recipe and I made that tomato soup from then on. I loved the crisp salad bar with the cold plates. I loved the squaw bread and the artichokes. I loved everything about it.
I went on to pursue my dream of becoming a chef. I left restaurant work to become a caterer because the hours were better for my children. I could work my schedule around their schedules. But I always missed the line. There is nothing quite like working on the line in a restaurant kitchen. The adrenaline rush is similar to the feeling I get when sky-diving. Being on the line always feels like “the big game.” It feels like being in the playoffs every night. I missed it, but I was grateful to be there for my girls at every track meet, swim meet, FFA event and the moments that mattered to them.
I said many, many, many times: “if I ever have a restaurant, it has to be Mattei’s.” I drove by that empty building every time I could and felt as heartbroken as the rest of our valley, that this beloved place was closed.
A few weeks ago I got a call that would change the next decade of my life. I was asked to go to an interview with the new property owner of Mattei’s Tavern. When I met Brian and Shamra Strange, I knew I met soul mates that care as deeply for the history of Mattei’s Tavern as I do. My vision for the food matched their vision. So, it is with great joy and gratitude that I am announcing that I am the new chef owner of the restaurant at Mattei’s Tavern.
The kitchen is the soul of a restaurant and there have been many wonderful chefs before me that made Mattei’s Tavern a place for everyone to celebrate. I am proud to be a part of the history of this landmark.
Here are some answers to the questions you may have:
Yes we are bringing back the original bar that thankfully Rodney Williams preserved in storage.
We plan to open to the public in December 2017. We will begin taking reservations in a few weeks.
We will be open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner only. In the spring we will open for brunch.
I will no longer be catering any outside events as my heart and soul will be in the restaurant full time.
I am still in the process of fine-tuning the menu and I would appreciate hearing what you would love to eat.
We will also be taking videos in front of Mattei’s Tavern of those who would like to share their significant stories and memories of the past. I know John Fredericks told me that four generations of his family have worked at Mattei’s. His great-grandfather took guests deer hunting. Sally Jones told me she remembered when Bud New owned Mattei’s and her family would come in for the famous turkey dinner. She said they had to call ahead to order lemon meringue pie and the baker would make it before their arrival.
This is the dream of my life and it only has value if I can share it with all of you. I am grateful for this opportunity to cook for the people I love in this valley I call home. Maili
"If they want the finest food and drink in the valley—in the whole state, by gar!—they will come to Mattei’s.” - Felix Mattei